With the stroke of his pen Governor Greg Abbott capped off several years of public advocacy by Texas Catholics with his signing House Bill 3074 into law. The measure requires the provision of artificial nutrition and hydration for patients who wish it, unless the provision of food and water causes harm to the patient.
The signing ceremony on June 12, 2015, culminated over a decade of efforts by the Catholic Bishops of Texas to reform advance directives legislation in the Lone Star State so it recognizes the dignity of a natural death and prioritizes the patient, while also acknowledging the emotional and ethical concerns of families, health care providers, and communities that want to provide the most compassionate care possible.
“The signing of House Bill 3074 was essential to establish strict and clear rules for the rare circumstances in which a doctor may have to consider withholding food and water because it exacerbates the suffering or brings about the death of a patient,” said Dr. Jeffery Patterson, executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference.
The new law will give clarity to the 1999 Texas Advance Directives Act. The Act contained definitions that could be interpreted to permit the withdrawal of care for patients, who may have an irreversible, but non-terminal, condition. It also failed to ensure that all patients were provided with ordinary care (i.e., nutrition and hydration). In addition, reforms were needed to provide more compassionate communication between medical professionals and patients’ families when disagreements arose.
In a great show of unity, pro-life groups and disability rights advocacy organizations across the state of Texas all signed onto the legislation, authored by state Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster). The groups committed to work to pass the bill through both the State House and Senate during the recent 84th Texas Legislature so Governor Abbott could sign it into law.